03 April 2008

A Rose by any other name...

An attendee in a workshop came up to me during a break and asked why I had listed my great-grandmother by her name of Fannie in my genealogical database instead of Francis. After all, her real name was probably Francis and that is how I should list her in my database. I think they were hoping to catch a mistake.

And while I may have mistakes in my genealogical database, this entry was intentional.

Francis Iona Rampley was born in May of 1883 near Breckendridge, Hancock County, Illinois. That is what is on her birth certificate. However...

Virtually every other record lists her as Fannie.

The 1900 census entry in Walker Township, Hancock County, Illinois (shown here) lists her as "Fany." Here she is listed with her widowed mother, Nancy Rampley, and several of her siblings.

The 1910 census lists her as "Frances" but the 1920 and 1930 list her as Fannie.

She used Fannie on her marriage license in 1903, when she signed her name several times in her husband's estate settlement papers, and she is listed in the Social Security Death Index as Fannie Neill (the one who died in 1965).

And that's what she had put on her tombstone.

All of which are good enough for me.

I do make a note in my genealogical database indicating which records list Francis. However, the name I choose to use as her "main" name in my database is Fannie.

I am on the flip side of this myself. I have never used the name "Mike." Nothing wrong with it, but I choose not to use it. I was never called Mike growing up and have never signed it or written it anywhere. And I have been known to ignore people who refer to me by that name. Personally, I think the name by which one is called is a personal choice. To assume someone wants to be called something else is a very personal affront and assumes a level of familarity with the person that is not necessarily true. So if any of my descendants enter my name in their database as "Mike" I'm try and find some way from the afterlife to change it.